Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vladimir Spivakov

Vladimir Spivakov (Vladimir Teodorovich Spivakov) is a Russian violinist, conductor, and teacher born on September 12, 1944 (Heifetz was 43 years old.)  He is best known as the Director of the Moscow Virtuosi, a Russian chamber orchestra.  However, he was also the conductor of the Russian National Orchestra (1999-2002 – this is a privately-owned orchestra founded by pianist Mikhail Pletnev.) and has guest-conducted numerous orchestras outside of Russia, including the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, the Houston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the London Symphony, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.  He first formally studied at Moscow’s Central School of Music, under Lubov Siegal.   After that, he continued his studies with Veniamin Sher at the music school of the Leningrad Conservatory (1956-1960), and with Yuri Yankelevich at the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1967.  It is not common knowledge that he also studied with David Oistrakh.  By age 13, he had already won first prize in a conducting competition in Moscow.  Conducting he studied with Israel Gusman in Russia and later on with Leonard Bernstein and Lorin Maazel in the U.S.  For a while, he used Bernstein’s baton to conduct all his concerts - the baton was a 1984 gift from Bernstein.  He might still be using it.  While still in school (in Russia) and after graduation, Spivakov won prizes in several competitions, including the Thibaud in Paris (1965), Paganini in Genoa (1967), the Montreal (1969), and the Tchaikovsky in Moscow (second place after Gidon Kremer, 1970.)  By 1970, he was an established concertizing violinist in Russia and Europe.  He first played in New York (USA) in 1975 (in recital) and 1976 (two recitals in Carnegie Hall.)  He toured with the Moscow State Orchestra in 1977.  In that same year, he made his debut with the London Symphony.  On January 11, 1979, Spivakov made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in New York, playing Haydn’s first violin concerto; however, he had already played with the Philharmonic in Leningrad, Russia (on September 8, 1976 with Leinsdorf conducting.)  Henceforth, Spivakov visited the U.S. regularly and played with the orchestras of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and San Francisco, among others, under various well-known conductors.  In the summer of 1979 he made his U.S. debut as a conductor with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois (about 20 miles North of Chicago.)  In that same year, he founded the Moscow Virtuosi, with which he has until now appeared both as violinist and conductor all over the world.  The Moscow Virtuosi was originally made up of Russia's international prize winners but did not enjoy official recognition – and public funding that goes with it – until 1983.  In 1989 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Colmar International Festival in France, which has become one of Europe's leading music festivals, though I had not heard of it until now.  He then (1989) emigrated to Spain where he remained for a few years and where the Moscow Virtuosi had been granted (by someone in the aristocracy) a five-year residency in Madrid.  It is stated in some sources that he also taught at the Madrid Conservatory though I doubt he spent much time there.  Spivakov is also known as a humanitarian and social figure.  In May 1994 (some sources say 1993) he established the Vladimir Spivakov International Charitable Foundation to support young talented musicians, painters, and dancers, and to help orphans in Russia, providing medical care for critically ill children and wheelchairs for disabled young people.  He has worked on behalf of victims of the Stalin regime (1933-1953) and children who suffered from the nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl.  He has received some of the highest honors available to civilian Russian citizens.  He is also the founder of the European Sakharov Foundation.  Vladimir Spivakov has made more than 40 recordings of a variety of works for the BMG/RCA Red Seal label and there are several videos of his playing on YouTube.  Also for RCA Red Seal, he has recorded the violin concertos of Brahms, Prokofiev, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky.  In 2003, at the suggestion of then Russian President Vladimir Putin, Spivakov formed the National Philharmonic of Russia of which he is now Artistic Director and Principal Conductor.  Just as William Primrose has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Spivakov had, on September 12, 1994, a real star named after him by the Russian International Observatory.  I don’t know where that star is located.  His teacher (Yankelevich) bequeathed to him a Francesco Gobetti violin (1716) which Spivakov used until 1997.  After 1997, Spivakov has used a Stradivarius violin (1712) provided for life by his friends. 

1 comment:

  1. Over 1500 music lovers are calling to boycott Vladimir Spivakov, a leading Russian conductor, who signed a public letter pledging a full support to President Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine. Now Spivakov is coming on tour to the US and Canada.
    We do not welcome Spivakov here!
    You're invited to sign at
    Join the group